The State of Working Montana series explores the state of Montana’s economy from the perspective of its workers and documents how they are faring. In every report in this series, our analysis goes beyond the top-level indicators that many use to evaluate the Montana economy. Instead, we focus on what matters to people who live and work in Montana.
First, the good news: Virginia’s workers are among America’s most productive. The state ranks in the top 10 in terms of worker productivity. More Virginians are
working and rates of participation in the labor force outstrip those of the United States as a whole and those of its nearest state neighbors.
Now, the bad news: Virginians are working harder and longer than ever, but are paid far less than they contribute. The growing gap between high and low wage earners in our economy has remained at the highest levels recorded since 1979. To make matters more challenging, coverage for health insurance and pensions has shrunk. And for those who do have health insurance, premiums in Virginia are among the highest in the country. Unemployment rates are on the rise, but the number of unemployed covered by the unemployment insurance system continues to lag.
The 2000 to 2010 decade was a hard one for America’s and Washington’s working families. While the top fifth gained wealth despite two recessions and sharp stock market swings, for most people the dream of attaining the hallmarks of the American middle class grew further out of reach. Holding a steady job, owning a home, sending the kids to college, affording medical care, saving for a secure retirement, each generation having more opportunity than the previous – these now all seem like relics of the 20th century.
This report reviews the current state of working Washington, including gains and losses in employment by sector and region, trends in income and wages, and changes in the workforce. It considers how unemployment affects the state and describes how increasing poverty levels impact families and communities. It evaluates the issue of economic security: what it means to have a job that provides a living wage and a home; benefits that include health insurance and time off to care for loved ones; access to high quality education, from pre-school through college; and retirement security – in short, the opportunity to work, save, and plan for the future. Finally, it suggests public policies that can begin to rebuild broadly shared prosperity for Washington’s working families.
By most standards of economic growth, the Oklahoma economy has been doing very well. Gross State Product (GSP) – a measure of the value of all goods and services produced in the state – has shown strong growth. Oklahoma’s unemployment rate has remained below the national rate and total personal income in the state has increased significantly since the 2001 recession. Yet the benefits of the expansion have been unevenly distributed. While the Oklahoma economy is expanding – producing more goods and services – and generating ever greater revenues, the growth is not necessarily translating into greater opportunity and economic well-being for all Oklahomans. Between 2001 and 2005, the median wage in Oklahoma, adjusted for inflation, declined by nearly 1 percent. Median household income declined 4.5 percent over the same period. For most Oklahoma wage earners and their families, the bottom line during this uneven
recovery has been a declining standard of living.
To better understand how the Oklahoma economy can be enjoying a period of overall growth while simultaneously seeing declines in income for the median household, we focus our analysis on four main areas – the general Oklahoma economy, jobs and the labor force, wage and income, and family self-sufficiency.